When was the last time you checked your breath? Um, not for a breath mint, but to actually understand how you breathe in different circumstances. We take about 21,600 breaths a day and about 14 breaths a minute. This is something to consider. Here’s how you can do a breath check:
-Do I breathe fast?
-Is my breath labored sometimes?
-Do I get out of breath?
-Do I hold my breath sometimes?
If yes was your answer to any of the above, read on…If your breath is altered at times, when does this happen? Do you breathe from your chest or your belly? There are many benefits to deep yogic breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing). In addition to calming the mind and body, this breathing practice lowers the blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, reduces anxiety and tension, keeps the lung tissue toned (allowing you to take in more oxygen to nourish the trillions of cells in your body) and has many more benefits. For additional details about the benefits of deep yogic breathing, go back to the prior post in this blog, “Belly Breathing Benefits.” (dated 8/11/17) Breathe on!
Meditation is not about sitting in a certain position with candles and incense burning in a darkened room. That’s all well and good if that’s your desire, but it’s not necessary. It’s not about seeing flashing colors. It’s not about seeing celestial beings. It’s about being comfortable and listening in your sacred place in however that looks to you. Life will always give us what is needed in the moment we are in. The very core of our true nature is Peace. It is here in one’s sacred place that peace lives silently in the stillness of the mind quietly leading the heart along the way. Breath is a meditation with life.
Many have heard phrases over the years like “find your center” and “ground yourself.” I don’t believe anyone actually ever explained what they meant, but I knew they involved going within.
It does help to know how these phrases translate in order to make this state of mind a tangible destination. So, here it goes… Centering refers to one’s mental or physical state. It means to calm your emotions, slowing your mind and your breathing to a point where you can “feel” a lot more going on around and inside of you. It is a state of relaxed alertness.
Have you centered today? Start right now. Sit up tall and lengthen your spine. Close your eyes and draw your awareness within. Begin to breath from your belly, letting it swell out on the in breath. Do this slowly 10 times, just paying attention to the breath. After you’re done, see if taking this brief pause has brought any shifts. Take note of them. Find a little space in your day to practice this. The results could well be illuminating.
There is far more going on in a yoga session than meets the eye. The blend of yoga postures, or asanas, with deep breathing and twists, stretches, massages and moves intestinal toxins out of the body. This helps with gas, bloating and constipation that can lead to more serious digestive disorders like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and pain. Many of the yoga postures that benefit digestion also help to flatten and tone the stomach.
Here are a few yoga postures that specifically target the digestive area:
- Vajrasansa (thunderbolt pose) properly aligns the body for digestion in this seated, kneeling posture. The buttocks sit back toward the heels. To enable ease and comfort in this posture, try putting a block under the buttocks or a blanket in between the buttocks and calves. This posture is wonderful after a big meal or any meal.
- Seated or reclining twists like Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose) or Supta Matsyendrasana (supine spinal twist) in combination with breath, provide a deeply targeted massage of the digestive region. Twists can also be done in a seated cross-legged position or in a chair with one leg crossed over the other. Twists squeeze out toxins from the body facilitated by deep breathing.
- Uttanasana (standing forward fold) improves digestion due to the compression of the abdominal area. It prompts circulation within the region and movement. It is also a multipurpose pose in that it calms the nervous system and allows for relaxation. Because the heart is higher than the head in this posture, there is a reversal of blood flowing to the brain.
- Balasana (child’s pose) Positioning the upper body to lay directly onto the thighs helps the digestive process as well targets the digestive region.
A strong, regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing, inherent in some yoga classes, moves the digestive organs giving them a steady massage. It activates digestion and burns away toxins. A regular yoga practice incorporating the above-as well as good food choices-is a great way to do something healthy and beneficial for the body and mind.